Spring is on it’s way. That means only one thing if you happen to be in the Netherlands — flowers, in abundance. It’s bulb season and you can literally surround yourself in flowers with a visit to the bulbfields. For anyone who hasn’t experienced this before, it is a sight not to be missed.
Mid April to mid May the lowland landscape comes to life in a blaze of primary colours with the arrival of tulips. Late May to early June you can smell the fragrant lilies and wonder at the fields of delphiniums, which are a lovely sight.
If you can’t wait until mid April, visit in late March/early April and enjoy fields of endless crocus, narcissi, and snowdrops which are a particularly beautiful sight basking in the evening sunshine. Feel the undercurrent of anticipation and excitement as preparations for the pending tulip season are underway. Whichever season you choose to go, you will not be disappointed with endless fields of flowers. It’s truly a sight to behold. The flatDutch landscape ensuring that the views are unparalleled.
Interestingly enough, tulips actually originate from south east Asia, farmed by the Turkish. The name of the tulip originates from the turban. I was lucky enough to experience a tulip festival, in celebration of this, in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It’s a little known fact, however, that the first tulips were introduced to Dutch soil by a famous biologist from Vienna who became the director of Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanical garden, located in Leiden and founded in 1587.
The first tulips, planted in Dutch soil in 1593, signified the start of what, is today, a significant annual date on the Dutch calendar. The Bollensntreek route (bulbfield route) runs south from Haarlem, near Amsterdam, to the town of Naaldwijk, south of Den Haag/The Hague. It is approximately 68 kilometres long. It is, however, possible to take in sections of this, should you not have access to a car. Whichever form of transport you decide to take, maps are available for biking or walking.
Starting our tour in The Hague, head north out of the city on the N44, which runs parallel to the A4, the main highway. Follow the N44 which goes through Wassenaar and Leiden and take exit five towards Sassenheim. Take Parklaan through the centre of the city and then head further north along the N208, this is the Bollenstreek/bulbfield route. A short while after you join the N208, look out for signposts to De Engel, this is a little more off the beaten track, where you will find narrower roads winding through the bulbfields, on either side of you. Go right on Achterweg and follow this road which will eventually bring you out at the stunning Keukenhof. Opposite the Keukenhof you will find kasteelkeukenhof/castlekeukenhof which will provide a welcome stop for refreshments, because, some serious energy is going to be needed for the next leg of the trip.
Once refreshed, unless you have decided to visit Keukenhof itself, head back towards the N208, but crossing it in the direction of Lisse. Lisse is truly the capital city of the bulb season. Check out the various walking routes around Lisse, with over 100 kilometres of walking routes, varying in length and terrain, you will have difficulty choosing. If cycling is your chosen mode of transport, several maps are available online, with useful information on where to hire bikes. If you want a more relaxing pace then take a boat through the bulbfields and get a look from another perspective. There are many options available online with useful links to the many options available.
Now let’s not forget, all the adrenaline and excitement of seeing such wonderful sights such as the bulbfields, is likely to work up quite an appetite. There are a wealth of restaurants, brassieres, and restaurants to chose from. The main street in Lisse, the Heerweg, runs right through the centre of Lisse town. Here you will find everything you need, but be warned, finding a spot, on a beautiful sunny day, may be quite a challenge as the whole area is teeming with like minded people wanting to experience and see this floral display.
Chique simple, Grand Cafe A-muze, Brassierie Hemels, Den Volden Heere, and De Vier Seizeon are all situated on the main square, all with outside terraces. Further along the street are Het Cafe, Il Mulino Restaurant, which has a rear terrace, Pizzeria Ristorante Piccolo, and Il Mulinio Trattoria, serving dishes created from fresh daily produce.
Linger a while in Lisse, where the locals decorate their front gardens but, most importantly, where the flower parade, which goes from Lisse to Haarlem, actually starts. On the 23rd April the parade starts at 9:30am in Lisse and finishes in Haarlem at 9pm. The following day the flower parade floats remain on view in Haarlem. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Museum De Zwarte Tulp/Museum of the Black Tulip, also on the Heereweg, whilst you are here. Open at the following times from Tuesday to Sunday, closed on Mondays — March to August 10am-5pm, September to February 1pm-5pm.
However you decide to take in the wonderous sights and fragrances of this flower frenzy, the rainbows of colours will be jumping around in your mind as you drift off to sleep, marvelling at spectacle you have just witnessed.